Editor’s Note: This story has been updated.
Hello Alice, a Houston-based digital platform backed by Melinda Gates, is continuing to roll out emergency grants of $10,000 each as they become available to a limited number of small businesses struggling because of Covid-19.
Since launching the grants on March 26, the platform disclosed in an email newsletter Wednesday that it has received “thousands” of applications from small business owners seeking cash. Nearly 60% of businesses that applied need the funding immediately to stay afloat, while 68% of applicants said they had pivoted their businesses to adapt to the pandemic. About 26% attributed social distancing as having the biggest impact on sales.
“The Hello Alice team is in the process of working to grow the fund,” a spokeswoman told The Story Exchange. She added that the grants will be distributed on a rolling basis, and additional funds will become available in the fall.
It is unclear how many grants have been awarded so far. The funds come from Silicon Valley Bank and The eBay Foundation. Business owners must have under 50 employees and be registered in the U.S.
“It literally means the difference between, ‘Can I survive Covid?’” and shuttering, said co-founder Elizabeth Gore, who started the company with Carolyn Rodz. “I know that sounds extreme, but if a business is pausing, there are still significant costs associated. And they’re not getting revenue.”
Despite a $2 trillion stimulus bill passed by Congress, entrepreneurs and employees alike are seeing wide-scale losses. Almost 30 million people have filed for unemployment since mid-March, according to the latest figures from Reuters, but that number can be even higher because many people have had trouble with filling out the application.
Gore said many companies are looking for small capital while they temporarily close and furlough workers. In the meantime, many businesses still need to pay rent and bills, and some need the money to hire experts to help them apply for small business loans.
Most entrepreneurs requesting the funds are in New York, California and Texas, and the top industries represented are beauty and self-care, followed by food and beverage, consumer goods and retail, and then arts and entertainment.
“Other businesses are using [the funds] to pivot,” said Gore. “Maybe I’m a restaurant or bakery and I have to go full delivery, and maybe I’ve never done that before. A lot of businesses are staying alive doing ecommerce, but there are still costs.”
Verizon donated $250,000 to Hello Alice’s Business for All grants for when businesses are able to open again, most likely in the fall, Gore said, “to ensure that there’s money waiting for them to reopen their doors.” They will most likely have cleaning and inventory costs, among other payments.
Hello Alice also launched a Covid-19 Business Resource Center. The page includes application information for the grants, remote working resources, mental health support, and tips on how to pause or close business for the time being.
Other efforts to give small businesses a boost include Spanx founder Sara Blakely’s Red Backpack Fund, which is allowing female entrepreneurs to sign up for email alerts about grant availability, and SheaMoisture’s $1 Million Fund for entrepreneurs of color and women-owned businesses, which has closed for applications.
This story was originally published April 2 and updated to include new information.